Saturday, May 28, 2011

Going Mobile

Well, I figured that the first real post here should be about what's been most important for Joy and I over the last few months: a place of our own.

We'd decided some time ago that when Joy was finally approved for Social Security - Disability, we'd buy ourselves an RV to live in. I think that we were both enamored with the idea of living mobile when we first moved to Reno, and spent five weeks living at the Silver Sage RV Park across Virginia Street from the Peppermill. Being able to pull up stakes just like that, and go where our noses led us. Being able to drive across the country to see her oldest son and his family at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on little more than a whim. And staying at the Silver Sage for a second time, about five months or so before our return to Port Angeles, only cemented that desire in both our minds.

It all breaks down to a few simple questions, though. The first one is 'what kind of RV do you want?' At first we were only thinking of a large (30 - 35') Class A......

Oh wait a minute. Do you know what I'm talking about? If you do, be patient. Suffering is good for the soul. If not, here's a quick primer on recreational vehicles.

Until recently, there were two main types of RV's - Trailers and actual Recreational Vehicles. Trailers break down into to three basic types - travel trailers and fifth-wheel trailers, and park models. Travel trailers are the most basic form of RV, just a big aluminum box to sleep in, anywhere from tiny teardrop-shaped trailers barely big enough to hold a bed to monsters up to 40 feet long and eight feet wide. Our pop-up trailer fit into the low end of the scale at a mere 17 feet in length (24' when fully extended), and could be towed easily with any truck with either a reciever or even a simple tow ball on the rear bumper. Fifth-wheel trailers require a custom hitch rig (called a gooseneck) that sits in the bed of a larger truck, and are easily identified by their somewhat humpbacked appearance, as the trailer body extends out over the bed of the towing vehicle. Park models are very long (usually 35 to 40 feet), and basically look like a 3/4-scale mobile home, and aren't really designed or built to be moved more than once or twice.

RV's come in three classes. A Class A RV is a full-body RV (a big box on wheels) on a custom-made chassis. Class B RV's are basically full-size vans that have been converted (hence the term 'conversion vans') to hold a couch that switches to a bed, a small kitchen and sink, and little else. In the middle falls the Class C, which has most of the features of a Class A while still being built on a van chassis, and essentially look like domesticated moving vans.

The newest member of the RV family is the 'toy hauler'. These can be either trailers or RVs, but what they all have in common is lots of room in the back for smaller vehicles, like bikes, motorcycles, ORV's or sand-rails. The downside of a toy hauler is that while there's space for your toys, that leaves less space for you.

Okay, we're back. At first we wanted a Class A, and the bigger the better. Then we started to fine-tune our desires, and other options came into play. Our choice then became either a Class A or Class C, and no longer than 35' because anything larger than 35' wouldn't be allowed in National Parks. I would prefer an RV with a diesel engine, for better towing and fuel economy (trust me on this - an extra two or three miles-per-gallon is crucial when you're driving two to three thousand miles with a rig that might only get 10 to 12 MPG at best). We never really gave trailers a look until very recently. My dad got me looking at fifth-wheels, which have a lot of room, but were too big to be towed by our SUV. And anything with stairs - even if only two or three - makes Joy nervous, no matter how much she likes the space. I never liked travel trailers, never really paid any attention to them, but then I found a 38-footer on Craigslist which I could turn into a rolling home-and-office complex with little effort. Now if only that woman would email us back. I've got the financing and transport ready.....

Every vehicle has its own advantages and drawbacks. RV's can go whenever you want them to, but the gas-mileage sucks ass, and insuring them can only be crazy expensive. A trailer might be cheaper than a full-on RV, but then you have to license and inusre two vehicles instead of one. And we have no interest whatsoever in toy haulers. My toy isn't a toy at all - it's my drumkit, and I only need a rig with enough 'basement' storage to hold it all, as well as one door big enough to fit my bass drum through.

But the dream is still there, and shining brightly. RV's depreciate in value rather quickly, so much so that we can budget a decent amount of Joy's SSD money towards a rig and be able to buy a fairly decent one without busting the budget. We look on Craigslist, Ebay, the local classifieds, and find a wide variety of vehicles available at decent prices. We're not all that nuts about going to dealerships - we have no love for the hard-sell, let me tell you - but so far our visits to local RV dealers have been educational, insightful, and generally positive. We think we're getting close to owning one, though at this point in time we don't have any place to actually park one, can't really do so until that SSD money comes in. But we use the time to our advantage, always searching, reading, learning. We want that lifestyle, to be air-conditioned gypsies.....

Well, maybe not 'gypsies', not in the classical sense. But being able to travel to my gigs together in comfort once in a while would be nice. That's a start....

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